The Slatest

Kellyanne Conway Violated Federal Ethics Rules, Federal Watchdog Agency Concludes

Kellyanne Conway
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A federal watchdog organization has found that Kellyanne Conway violated federal ethics rules by using her public platform to engage in politics.

That ruling found Conway had twice violated the Hatch Act, which bars federal employees from using their office for partisan politics. In two separate incidents, in November and December, Conway spoke out against now-Sen. Doug Jones in live television interviews from the White House lawn ahead of his Alabama Senate election against Roy Moore.

She is unlikely to face any repercussions. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency, could only submit its findings to the president “for the appropriate disciplinary action.” The White House, however, has already dismissed the findings of the report, arguing that Conway was not advocating for or against a candidate but was instead simply “express[ing] the President’s obvious position that he have people in the House and Senate who support his agenda,” according to a statement from the deputy press secretary Hogan Gridley. “In fact,” he said, “Kellyanne’s statements actually show her intention and desire to comply with the Hatch Act — as she twice declined to respond to the host’s specific invitation to encourage Alabamans to vote for the Republican.”

“Ms. Conway’s statements during the Fox & Friends and New Day interviews impermissibly mixed official government business with political views about candidates in the Alabama special election for U.S. Senate,” the report concluded.

The final report cited interviews on Fox’s Fox & Friends and on CNN’s New Day. In speaking on Fox & Friends in November, Conway warned the audience not to “be fooled,” saying that Jones is “weak on crime; weak on borders” and “strong on raising your taxes.” In another instance, in December speaking on CNN, Conway asserted that Trump “doesn’t want a liberal Democrat in the Senate” and that “he wants a reliable vote for taxes, for life.”

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley was also reprimanded by OSC for a Hatch Act violation after she retweeted Trump’s endorsement of a South Carolina congressional candidate, and White House social media director Dan Scavino was scolded for using the White House Twitter account to lash out against a Republican congressman before an upcoming primary.

Conway herself ran into trouble with the OSC in February 2017 when she plugged Ivanka Trump’s fashion line during an interview on Fox & Friends. She was not disciplined.

Molly Olmstead is a Slate assistant social media editor.